Workshop in Indong Tea Estate: 28th June 2019
The Coexistence project team, along with members of SPOAR, a local NGO partner met the workers of Indong Tea estate. The workshops was conducted in Ambachopal Line of the estate where elephants come regularly while crossing between adjacent forest patches. We discussed several measures to minimize accidents with elephants and also floated the idea of forming local First Response Teams to deal with elephants. The workers were also explained safety measures to avoid leopard encounters using interactive games.
Workshop in Nageshwari Tea Estate: 23rd June 2019
The Coexistence project team, along with the West Bengal Forest Department met workers in Nageshwari Tea Estate for a session on reducing risk of human casualties due to leopards and elephants. The workshops were conducted in two separate worker colonies, both regularly used by elephants for movement and also have a resident population of leopards. The workshop was requested by local workers after several instances of leopard sightings in the area and one case of a lady worker being injured in an encounter with a leopard while plucking leaves.
Workshop in Damdim Tea Estate: 26th June 2019
The Coexistence project team, along with the West Bengal Forest Department, SPOAR and NAS, two local NGO partners met workers in Damdim Tea Estate for a session on reducing risk of human casualties due to leopards and elephants. The workshop was conducted in Gosai line where leopards have been sighted regularly and elephant visitation is also common. Detailed discussions were held on leopard and elephant ecology and on safety practices to minimize accidental encounters with leopards and elephants
Workshop in Bagrakote Tea Estate: 21st July 2019
The Coexistence project team met the people residing in Bagrakote Tea Estate area. The awareness program was conducted on the hospital premises of the tea garden. In this locality, there is a regular movement of elephants as it falls between two forest patches. We discussed methods on how to minimize human confrontations with elephants and also the idea of forming a First Response Team dedicated to deal with wildlife emergencies. The later part of the discussion focused on safety measures to avoid leopard encounters while working in and around the tea garden.
Workshop in Chalsha Tea Estate: 22nd July 2019
The Coexistence project team conducted an awareness program in the Pucca Line area. This area is adjacent to forested patches and is almost daily visited by elephants, especially during the monsoon season. The session started with discussions on safety measures that the people residing there should follow and precautions they should maintain regularly to reduce the chances of encounters with the animal. The people explained the problems they face for elephants in their daily life. The latter half of the session was about the safety norms and practices that the workers should follow for reducing the chances of leopard encounters while they are in the tea estate.
WTI Right Of Passage Workshop: Murti, 14th August 2019
Wildlife Trust of India, in association with SPOAR organized a day-long stakeholder workshop with the Tea-Estate Associations, District Administration, Forest Department and Police Department. Aritra Kshettry, from the Co-existence project held a 1-hour session on stakeholder engagement and role of various stakeholder in addressing the root causes of conflicts with people and elephant conservation in the region. The deliberations centred around the eradication of alcoholism, adequate lighting in tea-estate settlements, formation of Quick Response Teams at the level of each tea estate and formation of corpus funds to offset losses faced by people due to elephants.
Workshop In Lakhipara Tea Estate: 28th July 2019
On Sunday morning, an awareness program was conducted by the Coexistence project team in the Bara Line area of the tea garden. The area falls between forest patches of Diana and Rethi, and elephants often visit the tea garden including the labour colonies, more frequently during the monsoon season. We discussed the precautionary measures that the villagers should take regularly to minimize the chances of casualties and the concept of forming a First Response Team for dealing with wildlife emergencies was also floated. The latter half of the session was about the safety measures that the tea-workers should practise before entering the field for reducing the chances of leopard attacks.
Workshop in Hilla Tea Estate: 11 th August 2019
An awareness program was organised in the ICDS school premises of the Niche Line area. This human habitation is just opposite to the Chapramari forest patch so, regular elephant movements are quite common here. Often wild animals get stranded inside the tea estate and labour lines even, during the daytime. Our team members had sessions with the villagers in which we discussed different precautionary measures that should be adopted by the locals to reduce the chances of human-elephant conflict. The villagers were explained how to form a First Response Team with local members for dealing with wildlife emergencies until the Forest Department reach the spot. We also taught various practices to be followed especially, by the tea estate labours while working in the tea garden to minimize the risk of leopard attacks.
Workshop in Mugalkata Tea Estate: 21 st August 2019
The Coexistence Team with the help of the Panchayat member conducted an awareness program on the football ground of line number 4. Elephants visit this area almost every day, as this Tea Estate is environed by a couple of forest patches and,
cattle lifting by a leopard are also quite common here. We discussed several precautionary techniques and measures that would help to decrease the possibilities of human-wildlife conflicts. The concept of forming a First Response Team and, how it will operate during wildlife emergencies in the labour line, was introduced to the villagers. The locals requested for building watchtowers on certain points that are used by elephants for entering the labour lines.
Workshop in Putharjhora Tea Estate: 25 th August 2019
The Coexistence Project team, with the help of the Panchayat member, organised an
awareness camp in the Mangal Line. This tea estate is an organic farm and, the locals residing here are well conscious of the importance of ecological diversity. We tried to understand how these people deal with wildlife emergencies when the animals especially, elephants invade the labour lines, through interactive sessions. Cattle lifting by leopards are also a common phenomenon here. Our team members discussed various methods and, precautionary measures to be followed on an everyday basis to avoid leopard and elephant encounters.
Workshop in Red bank Tea Estate: on 15th September 2019
The Awareness camp was organised at the EDC school of Bheeka Line, where the Co-
existence Team explained the Human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures including certain precautionary measures and also emphasized on the need to follow the safety protocols regularly to control the rate of damages and human casualties. Elephants visit the labour line almost regularly and on numerous occasions, they cause losses to the houses. The tea garden is closed and the overgrown tea bushes create a suitable territory for the elephants to dwell in the tea estate even, during day time. We also discussed methods to deal with leopard encounters and how to avoid confrontations with this animal. The concept of creating the First Response Team with eligible adults of the village was raised. This team of trained personals would first reach the location during any wildlife emergencies until the Forest Department reach the spot.
Workshop in Dharanipur Tea Estate: on 22th September 2019
The Awareness program was conducted in the Kalikhola Pipeline labour colony with the help of Panchayat member and at present, the garden is run by the co-operative committee. This area is dominated by regular elephant visits from the adjoining Diana forest patch. There are no arrangements of street lights in the labour lines which make it very difficult for the locals to confirm the animal presence after sunset. The Coexistence Project team conducted sessions on how to deal with elephants when they invade the labour colonies and also certain measures were explained which could benefit them to reduce the human-elephant conflicts. Labours who work in the tea garden were specially taught various exercises that should be conducted regularly before entering the bushes for depreciating the human-leopard confrontations. The team also proposed the villagers for creating a First Response Team with trained local members which could deal in case of any wildlife crises in their settlement till the forest department reaches the spot.
Formation of Voluntary Quick Response Teams: 6th and 7th January 2020
Village level voluntary quick response teams were set up during this event. The idea of Quick Response teams was formulated by the Co-existence Project during our long term work in the landscape. Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with SPOAR, a local NGO helped implement the idea in partnership with the Co-existence project. 19 Such teams have been created in tea-estates and villages where elephant movement is frequent. These teams have been equipped by WTI and two (out of 19) teams have been funded by the Co-existence project. The QRT members were trained and initiated during this event which was held in partnership with the West Bengal Forest Department. The main role of the QRTs includes crowd control during elephant entry inside villages/crop fields. Guiding elephants safely away from human habitations, informing Forest Department Teams and assisting them in dealing with all kinds of wildlife emergencies.
Collaring of Adult Male Leopard: January 2020
We are excited to announce that the Co-existence project will now help track a collared male leopard as he navigates through forests, tea plantations, rivers, agriculture fields and of course, people!
He has been collared as part of a State Forest Department project in collaboration with the Central Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and GIZ. Follow our website to keep track of L1's latest antics.
Project Flash The Lights 2021: January 2021
We spent the greater part of 2020 building partnerships and collaborations as field work could not go on due to the pandemic crisis. As soon as things looked slightly better, we started off 2021 with a flash!
Yes, we have collaborated with Voice for Asian Elephants Society and Naturemates India to procure 2000 flashlights. These flashlights will be distributed to families who share space with people so that people can be wary of elephant presence at night near their homes. Our past studies have found that most human casualties due to elephants occur at night when people are unaware of elephant presence near their homes. Hence we will be sharing safety practices with workers of tea-estates so that no more lives are lost to accidents. This will also help build local support for conserving elephants in the landscape.
We have distributed 2000 rechargeable (Model No: Pathfinder Havell’s 3Watt) flashlights in 2021!
22 tea estates which included:
Nuxalbari Tea Garden, Leesh River Tea Garden, Sonali Tea Garden, Songachi Tea Garden, Aibheel Tea Garden, Gandrapara Tea Garden, Neora Nuddy Tea Garden, Needham Tea Garden, Mogulkata Tea Garden, Totapara Tea Garden, Palasbari Tea Garden, Huldibari Tea Garden, Borodighi Tea Garden , Bamondanga Tea Garden, Gurjongjhora Tea Garden, Bagrakote Tea Garden, Puthorjhora Tea Garden, Killkote Tea Garden, Damdim Tea Garden, Syli Tea Garden, Good Hope Tea Garden and Meenglass Tea Garden
And 12 villages which included:
Panjhora Forest Village, Batabari JFMC Village, Budhuram Forest Village, Chatua Forest Village, Kalipur Forest Village, Veluadanga Forest Village, Ramsai Bazar, Sukhani Busty, Dhakidhura Busty Nich Chulsa, Targhera Busty, Mech Busty and Gajoldoba Busty.
The events were conducted by the team members of the Coexistence Project, the Range Officers, Deputy Range Officers of the West Bengal Forest Department. The following forest ranges: Malbazar Wildlife Squad, Khunia Wildlife Squad, Binnaguri Wildlife Squad, Ramsai Mobile Squad and Targhera Range helped in locating the critical lines of the respective villages and tea estates.
We have reached every individual personally and made the people understand the importance of carrying a light source at night when going out of the house. The villagers were also told not to store any sort of food or brewed alcohol or ‘Hariya’, Rice Beer that attracts the elephant in their living area and not to plant trees like Banana, Areca Nut, Jack-fruit, etc in their compound. No individual should try to chase the animal if it enters the village. The villagers understood the fact that no one can stop the elephant from coming in but, if we maintain certain precautionary measures in our everyday life then the human-wildlife conflict can be diminished. Not only elephants but, there are also leopards which stay both inside the forest and also in tea garden bushes.
In every program, the flashlight receivers were explained that this torch is for the safety of both the human and the animal so, no individual should use the light for chasing or driving the elephant or other wild animals. We have selected community representatives from each location where awareness and flashlight distributions were conducted and in future, we are eager to hear from them whether the flashlight helped the purpose. This Project is funded by Voice For Asian Elephants Society, USA. Our main goal lies in creating safe and secured shared spaces for humans and elephants using the scientific technique.
Indigenous Solar Fences to Protect Elephants and Crops
We lost more than 15 elephants to electrocution in 2020 and 2021. Most of the incidents were due to farmers putting live wires around crop fields. Hence, to prevent such incidents, we developed low cost solar fences that are safe for people and elephants.
The Coexistence Project in collaboration with Voice For Asian Elephants Society and Nature Mates installed 3Km Power Fence in Panjhora Forest Village. Panjhora Forest Village is situated adjacent to Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary and reserved forest of Jalpaiguri Division. Every year their paddy field gets raided by elephants and sometimes, the villagers hardly get any yield. Paddy, Maize, and mustard are the main crops that are cultivated here. In the crop season elephant often visit the field and sometimes their movement on the crop field damages the yield even when the animal is not feeding.
The energiser of the Power Fence has been bought with the Mud on Boots Project grant and the remaining cost of the fence installation has been funded by VFAES (Voice For Asian Elephants Society). The technical work of the installation process has been done by a local NGO, SNAP (Solitary Nature and Animal Protection Foundation) and the project has been implemented by The Coexistence Project. The installation work has been completed and the Power Fence has been activated since October 2021.
The local community is monitoring the fence on regular basis and the minor damages have been settled with assistance from Coexistence Project Team members. The local community is taking regular care to keep the power fence in working condition and from time to time, bush clearance around the fence is also done. The villagers have started harvesting paddy and to get an idea of trespassing elephants and other wild animals, camera traps have been installed at various locations of the Power Fence. The amount of crop damage due to elephants and wild boars are being monitored in a systemic process. The paddy yield from a selected number of households has been recorded as well.
Enabling safer shared spaces between tea-workers and leopards through early warning practices: August 2022
The tea estates of North Bengal have always been a favourable habitat for leopards. Accidental encounters occur between leopards and plantation workers especially the leaf plucker and the 'jhurni’ or weed clearing workers. During the dry season and winters, the tea bushes are usually pruned. This is the time when most of the tea bushes are cleared keeping small patches with dense and high plant heights. So, for leopards, the habitat gets diminished during the pruning season and also, during bush clearance from the garden drains the workers often get injured by leopards due to accidental confrontation.
The Coexistence Project in collaboration with a Jalpaiguri-based NGO 'SPOAR' decided to promote awareness which focussed on how to follow the preventive measures before entering everyday work inside the tea plantation area. The importance of ‘noise’ and how it can be helpful to avoid human-leopard conflict in the tea estates were focused on in the programs. The main goal was to spread awareness among the plantation workers, such as tea estate field managers, ‘Sardars’ or the leaders of each plucking team, leaf plucking workers and their field-working hours were selected for conducting these distribution events. The concept of noise and how it should be practised each time when they enter the plantation area were discussed. The workers were advised by the forest department to enter from one side in 'Mela' formation. The Coexistence Project team members and representatives from SPOAR distributed over one thousand whistles in each of the tea gardens including Damdim Tea Estate, Rungamuttee Tea Estate and Gurjongjhora Tea Garden.
The Malbazar Wildlife Squad under Gorumara Wildlife Division accompanied our team and provided support & cooperation for the distribution events. The forest department explained to the tea estate managers and the garden staff that the new order from the government authority forbids the installation of leopard cages and trapping for relocation from any random locations inside the plantation area.
Enabling safer shared spaces between tea-workers and elephants through early warning practices: Alarm Fence Design and Installation 2022
Baradighi Tea Estate is located just adjacent to the Gorumara National Park. The tea estate labour lines often witness the presence of wild animals & the problem occurs when elephants enter the locality. Every year, one or the other house gets damaged by the wild elephants and sometimes, due to accidental encounters, human and cattle deaths occur. The property damages that are caused inside the tea estate are not compensated by the West Bengal Forest Department and according to the Plantation Act, the houses that fall inside the tea estate need to be repaired and maintained by the tea company.
In the present scenario, when the tea industry is not receiving considerable profit margins, the tea management is disabled to invest in the repair and developmental works. The people who are residing in such proximity to wild animals are the real victims!
The Coexistence Project in collaboration with International Elephant Foundation installed a 1Km alarm fence that covered 3 critical labour lines Paharia Line, Bhauka Line and Ramdas Line. This Fence included spring poles that were installed in intervals to make the foundation flexible so that the elephant cannot damage the poles to infiltrate the fence. Instead of metal wires and an energizer of the conventional electric fencing, 1000metre flexible nylon strings, 16 Sensors (8 for each strand), 16 Triggering switches (8 for each strand), 4 Solar Plates, 4 Batteries and 4 alarms were used.
The main goal of this 2strands fencing was to provide an early alarm system whenever the wild animals try to infiltrate through the fenced area and also touching the string of the fence activates the siren and light. At night, when there is elephant movement through this part, the villagers could easily hear the sound of the siren and see the bright blinking lights from a long distance. This works as an alert system whenever there is wildlife interference through the fencing area.
The technical work of the fence installation was handled by a Siliguri Based NGO named ‘SNAP’ which has been trying to develop various gadgets and technical instruments that may help in diminishing the human-wildlife conflict especially, the interactions between human-elephant and human-leopards are being focussed.
The Borodighi Fencing was made functional in November 2021 and at present, the fence site is monitored regularly by Baradighi Quick Response Team members and the necessary repair and maintenance work is being taken care of at the earliest under the supervision of the Coexistence Project team members.
After 4months from the date of installation of the Alarm Fence, a review meeting was organised with the locals regarding the labour lines which fall under the fencing area. The interaction and interview sessions with this audience gave a clear view of the present situation in that area. Mr Damu Murmu, the leader of the Baradighi Quick Response Team explained that after the fence installation, they used to hear the sound of the sirens quite often at night. But, no major damages have occurred in the labour line of the fenced villages. Mr Raju Oraon from the Paharia Line said that they have seen that elephants are getting frightened when the sirens are activated and the blinking lights help in retaliation of the wild animals. The villagers believe that there were initial efforts to infiltrate through the fence side but, later the locals witnessed the elephants deliberately avoiding the trails that pass through the fenced area. Instead, they said the other labour lines are being targeted by the wild Elephants, mainly the lone Bulls. The villagers suggested extending this fence and covering particularly the Raghunath Line & Ramchand Line of Borodgihi Tea Estate would be an ideal solution for saving the village from random raids of elephants.